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Combining chemotherapy, immunotherapy and nanotechnology to treat cancer

  • Researcher: Dr Paola Allavena
  • Institution: Fondazione Humanitas per la Ricerca, Italy
  • Award Amount: £204,906 from 1st July 2015 for 3 years
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
Combining chemotherapy, immunotherapy and nanotechnology to treat cancer
Scientific research in the fields of Nanomedicine and Cancer Immunotherapy has advanced tremendously in recent years.  The combination of both disciplines, is a still uncharted waters however, with the potential to provide innovative solutions for the treatment of cancer. The relationship between tumour cells and immune cells, which are supposed to defend our body, is complex and ambiguous. Recent advances have demonstrated a key role for Tumour-Associated Macrophages (TAM), which are manipulated by the tumour microenvironment to switch and become pro-tumour cells. TAM promote tumour progression and resistance to therapies, and thus poor patient prognosis. Dr Paola Allavena told us “Using a combined approach consisting of chemotherapy, immunotherapy and nanotechnology, our strategy is to kill TAM or ‘restore their factory settings’ meaning they once again attack tumours. We recently discovered that Trabectedin, a drug registered for soft tissue sarcoma and ovarian cancer, is able to kill about 50% of TAM. We will first use this drug then add Immunomodulatory Nanostructures (INs). These Ins are decorated with specific molecules to ensure they reach the residual TAM in tumours.  The INs will be designed to deliver appropriate therapeutic stimuli to re-educate the TAM so they once again attack tumour cells. The use of nanotechnology allows us the innovative combination of these strategies in the same nanomedicine.” If successful, this ground-breaking strategy should achieve a powerful and long-lasting effective to combat cancer. She told us “It is now established that anti-tumor therapies should be directed not only to cancer cells but also to the whole tumor micro-environment.  This project gives me the great opportunity to exploit the growing field of nanomedicines to modulate the tumor micro-environment, especially the tumor-associated macrophages.”
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